Among the season-best marks set by the Packers' defense against the Bears were:
· Allowing just 188 yards of total offense
· Limiting quarterback Kyle Orton to just six completions (in 17 attempts) for a quarterback rating of 23.7
· Giving up just 10 first downs
· Not allowing a third down conversion in 10 tries
Numbers like those should have translated into a win. Instead, they just add to the agony of the loss.
Additionally, the defense got a big interception from safety Mark Roman in the first quarter to stop a potential scoring drive for the Bears after a 14-yard punt by B.J. Sander. It held the Bears to just three field goals (with one coming as a direct result of a Brett Favre interception just before halftime). And rookie Mike Montgomery, seldom-used this season, came off the bench to post his best performance of the season with four tackles and a sack.
Five times in the second half, the Packers' defense made stops giving the ball back to the offense with a chance to go ahead in the game. Five times, the offense failed.
The Packers' special teams did not help, either. Sander had his worst performance of the season with punts of 14 and 21 yards in the first half. The Bears' average starting field position was their own 47-yard line.
Though the Packers stick to the "we win as a team, we lose as team" motto, it has to be difficult for a defense making progress and becoming more consistent to continue to lose games. Plus, the team across from the field on Sunday fed off their defense to win a game, something the Packers have not been able to do.
While the Bears have come up with a formula for winning with their defense, the Packers usually put their defense in difficult situations. That is a formula for losing even with a good defense. Thus, the Packers are an unthinkable 2-10.
Sure, the Packers' defense can still improve. It still needs to create more turnovers, stop the opposition more often at critical times, and get more pressure on the quarterback. Then again, they cannot play much better than against the Bears, only hoping for a different result on the scoreboard.
In what could be an off-season of change in the coaching ranks for the Packers, they must do whatever they can to hang on to defensive coordinator Jim Bates. If head coach Mike Sherman stays on, Bates will be back. If Sherman is let go, they either need to convince a new coach to keep Bates or name Bates the head coach. He has become too valuable to lose after one year and a change in defensive system would be devastating to a group of young players starting to believe they can dominate.
With three of the four games remaining on the schedule against poor offenses, the Packers' defense should finish the year on a strong note. Whether that will translate into wins, however, seems rather unlikely because the unit probably will not get any help.
Editor's note: Matt Tevsh lives in Green Bay and is entering his 10th season covering the Green Bay Packers for Packer Report and PackerReport.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.